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Snow and hope for peaches

It's a snow day. There's a fire in the hearth. I'm planning menus for January's private party and Valentine's Day celebration. But, when winter sunset turns the whole world pink and colors so gaudy play in the sky they make Renoir blush ; my mind can't help but turn to the warm days of summer and outrageous colors and flavors of peaches.

We are taking a tour through supper club this week on social media. Every Instagram post this week will feature a supper-club course. First course is always a poem, so I thought I'd share an original piece I wrote for a July supper club. Completely out of season but sometimes we need something to look forward to in the dregs of winter. Enjoy!

I was born in July. The end of July. A number I have grown to love by the mere shape of its fat zero and all-powerful triune representation. One more day until August, but my birthday is most definitely not in August.

I don’t really love the number. I love that at school’s end in June, the neverending activity of what I can only describe as heaven’s parade of bliss begins. A summer birthday keeps you young I think. Growing up in New Jersey the summers were so humid you could scoop the air with a spoon and the locusts so loud they cured tinnitus. Both worthy of complaint and yet it was the landscape and soundtrack of my childhood. I can still feel the damp grass sticking to my toes and clinging to the rolled cuff of my osh-kosh b’gosh overalls as I chased fireflies. There are yellow fireflies and green fireflies; their fluorescent colors solidifying that I am a child of the 80’s and will forever be drawn to neon. Fireflies were my fairy. And catching them early when they were low in the grass gave way to getting distracted by the orange moon rising over the hills as they flew above my head and out of my grasp. By then it was late evening but I could still see my hand in front of my face. No one needed sleep.The light never seemed to dim. 

Light. Light was the only hint that the summer season was here during my childhood years in southern California. It was warm all year. Another parade of what I hope is heaven’s climate. Besides the long days, the only other way to know summer had arrived was that the green hills turned to brown. And the grass crunched under your feet…if you didn’t use irrigation, that is. There will always be a drought in that part of the country. Conserve water. Light blinds bright white at high noon but mellows out to cotton candy pink, to bridal peach, to deep golden.  On my golden birthday, I witnessed one very long, seemingly never-ending day as I flew from the East Coast to the West directly into the sun. I don’t think it ever set the entire flight as we headed to a golden horizon for six hours.

Gold, pink, red, orange, peach. Peaches. Both the east and west coast can boast owning this voluptuous, seductive, mulebrial fruit. In Jersey, they grew in orchards. But in California, it wasn’t uncommon to have a stone fruit tree haphazardly growing in your backyard. We had one. And it produced one giant peach..most likely the kind that inspired Roald Dahl’s beloved fantasy. Every morning, I would wake up and run outside barefoot, cautiously avoiding the scores of snails that socialized on the patio every morning, to check if the peach was ripe. One day it was. And without a thought to any of the other members of my family, I picked it and ate the whole thing. My mother scolded me later. I’ve never tasted one like it since.

Tomatoes. Summer’s most boastful, overburdened, underappreciated, flamboyant fruit. The smell of tomatoes is nothing like its taste the way a peach is. It smells green. If I were to sniff it with my eyes closed, I’d imagine it covered in a sea-green colored velvet with perhaps a caterpillar wearing a crown perched on top. But the smell I most remember associated with tomatoes is cilantro and gasoline. My grandfather’s south Jersey farm. He’d come in for lunch leaving his diesel and sandy earth caked coveralls in the mudroom to sit at the table eating thickly sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper. Think mustard-gold pfaltzgraff on a vinyl tablecloth. Sometimes he smelled like ivory soap. He would take his crates of tomatoes, eggplant, cilantro and escarole to what the farmers called The Block where it would be sold at auction. Occasionally I got to tag along and sit at a high stool at The Block’s cafe eating escarole soup while listening to farmer’s talk about rain and greenhouses and if ConAgra and Progresso were going to buy all the farms in the neighborhood. They did. 

Ripe, fresh produce, fireflies, long nights, and never ending light. It’s the magic of summer. When else do you hear children laughing outside long after dark? Or see people sitting outside in their adirondack chairs, or rockers instead of inside in front of a television. When else is it perfectly normal to sit on a porch and watch a thunderstorm roll in and breath as deep as your lungs can inhale the smell of a summer rain…mossy. When can you light a fire on the shore and watch the milky way stretch across an ocean-wide sky and forget that earlier in the year you forgot what both sun and star looked like as you bunkered hunched over inside for a winter?

July is a wing in dream take flight. A wish for a blown dandelion seed. The gold lining of a cumulus cloud. The peach in renaissance skies. July is eternal if only in our memories.

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